INDEPENDENCE DAY WOES

In the spirit of this week’s July Fourth celebrations, and its abiding traditions, I feel compelled to inveigh against the neo fascist policies of our embarrassment of a President.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, I feel the abuses by the Trump misadministration go beyond politics, to the soul of our democratic tenets.

Indeed, we’re not talking politics, as several websites have asked me to shy away from. We’re talking about pride in America, about survival of a way a of life,

Independence Day used to be a joyous time to remember and celebrate the birth of democracy, a time for hometown parades, fireworks, family and friends’ picnics.

Not this year, with a megalomaniacal, mendacious Trump in the White House, seemingly hell bent to destroy with a disturbing glee our democratic traditions, our national sense of decency, our international reputation of a land of the free, home of the brave, and a welcomed source of hope for all.

Now everyday there seems to be a new effrontery by Trump, his soulless entourage, the craven Republicans leadership, his greedy corporate base, and stupefying, supporters, including a few of my neighbors in Malibu, judging from comments received for some past commentaries taking Trump to task.

As I have stated before, it is beyond comprehension that anyone who says they love our ecologically sensitive seacoast village of Malibu, can support the science denying, imbecilic Trump appointees gutting our frail environment safeguards, and undermining our public education system.

Beyond them there are the supporters of his cruel immigration policies, his disparaging of our justice system, his twisted tax policies he strong armed through congress that unquestionably aggravate the nation’s already worrisome income disparities:

The rich are getting obscenely richer, and the poor are getting sadly , depressingly poorer. And heaven help the Social Security System and Medicare.

But we’re better than this neo fascist agenda. We are better than him. In the jargon of his and my New York, Trump is truly a schmuck, and a loser, and god willing won’t last long. After all, he’s only been in office two years, though I know it feels like 20. And this Democracy has been around for 242 years.

Terrifying at times as it is, we must hold on, take heart any resistance, and look forward to the Congressional election this fall, and the national election in 2020, that is if Trump is not impeached, as he should be but probably wont.

We have to believe that this nightmare will end. Meanwhile, I hope your July fourth was free of thoughts of Trump, and happy.

 

 

 

 

LONG DAYS IN MEXICO, LONG NIGHTS IN BEVERLY HILLS

For me these the last few weeks it has been arts and entertainment in Mexico, in particular its rich archeology, displayed in museums and historic sites.

Foremost was Teotihuacan, the largest city in the Americas nearly two thousand years ago, and today still very impressive, if not exhausting under a hot sun.

I had been turned on to this site just outside Mexico City by an enthralling exhibit now on display at the L.A. County Museum of Art, until July 15th. It is a must go.

I also spent a week in the Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, justly known for its culinary and craft traditions, its Spanish colonial architecture, and engaging street scenes.

Blessed by benign weather, witnessed in the plazas and pedestrian promenades was a colorful wedding reception, a graduation celebration and a salutation to a saint. And then there was the shopping. All combined to make time to slip by.

But I had to be back in L.A. in time for an opening night performance of a not-to-be missed “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The Pulitzer-Prize masterpiece by Eugene O’Neill , arguable America’s greatest playwright, will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for just three-weeks, beginning tomorrow through July 1.

It’s a limited engagement of the acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production, coming to the west coast after sold out runs in New York and London. And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, and websites everywhere, score a big one for the Wallis.

Directed by the honored Sir Richard Eyre, its has an all-star cast, headed by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and recent nominee Lesley Manville. She is known for playing the cold sister in “Phantom Thread;” Irons for many roles, and is one of a few actors to have won an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy.

The play briefly portrays a family whose matriarch is addicted on morphine since the birth of child. Take it from there as the sons attack each other with brutal honesty, while the father wallows in whiskey – all exposed in a long night.

It is harrowing experience, and one I still remember with heartache 50 years ago when I saw it in its initial Broadway run, starring, among others, Florence Eldridge, Jason Robards, and Katherine Ross. The production won a host of awards, and turned me on to live theatre. It has been a joy since.

 

 

SELF SERVING MALIBU CITY HALL SCORED

It being spring, and Malibu is in full bloom, in particular my landscape. You’d therefore think my commentaries concerning civic matters would lighten up, as has been suggested by a few listeners and readers.

To be sure, as I remark on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the public school situation projecting the realignment of facilities and the district divorce look promising; and so is the city’s planned purchase of commercial parcels. Maybe it will save the Bluffs Park from some nasty, irrevocable over development.

Indeed, in my semi retirement, I’d love to kick back, limit my commentaries to the arts and entrainment segments that I now also do for public radio and various websites. I certainly can use the time for my travels, landscaping and book reviewing.

But as a long time resident with an abiding love for the unique environment and liberal lifestyles of Malibu, I cannot ignore the decline of the city, exacerbated by the lack of public oversight, a municipal ombudsman, local investigative reporters, and only scattered concerns.

Meanwhile, there is indeed much to be concerned about: Heading a list is the self aggrandizing City Council, naively yielding its prerogatives to a self serving, bloated city administration.

Talk about the hardening of bureaucratic arteries, and in a city of just 13,000, a municipality that seems to out source nearly everything, except payroll, pension and perks. And what some favored consultants are exactly being paid for remains a mystery, and that after sucking up millions of our tax dollars. There is no accountability at City Hall.

Then there are the challenge of pending issues: the air b n bs; the future of the commercial sinkhole of the civic center, Trancas field, a premium dog park, and the constant pain of PCH. Tough questions, especially for a lazy, neophyte City Hall.

As for the planning, the city appears to more often than not to yield to a cabal of dominant developers and their facilitators, commercial interests, rapacious realtors, or the whim of a wily city manager. Those dolphins awards to our politicians are beginning to smell like rotten fish.

The result I fear has been an insidious anomie in a dwindling democracy, aggravated by Malibu becoming more a tacky tourist town of trophy second homes and weekend party houses and less a unique coastal village of caring residents.

And so immodestly, as a seasoned journalist and a hardened planner, I feel compelled to express my concerns. As I used to be told by a tough NCO when I once was a platoon sergeant a long time ago,“it is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.” The adage echoes.

I’ll add, good luck Malibu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEARCHING FOR L.A. ON THE SUNSET STRIP

Ostensibly, this is a review of an evocative illustrated history of a fabled stub of Sunset Boulevard, entitled “Tales from The Strip: A Century in the Fast Lane.”

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the book published by Angel City Press chronicles the heydays and the high and low life nights of a roadway just two miles in length, but long in rollicking and revealing stories.

Located in the immodest satellite city of West Hollywood, edging a boastful Beverly Hills, the Strip celebrates a greater Los Angeles. Though warped with age, it perseveres as a stand out stop on the celebrity bus tour.

But also for me, and donnish others, searching the expansively suburban, reluctantly urban, Los Angeles for nothing less than its soul, that unique sense of place with the potential of generating an elusive evanescent quality of a “genius loci.” The Strip offers clues.

After all, “The city is the teacher of man,” stated the venerated philosopher Simonides, in 475 B.C. The hope expressed then, and now, nearly 2,600 years later, is that those select public places could somehow give rise to a civic identity and sense of community, however fleeting, to feed a frail democracy.

The Strip’s shifting scenes once upon a time before television were peopled by a cast of spot lit characters, featuring a parade of big screen celebrities, with an occasional menacing mobster lurking in the shadows, and on the sidewalks, the omnipresent chorus of wannabes and witnesses.

The scene lent Los Angeles a certain world fame, tinged with notoriety, that lingers today in what might be defined as a post modern sense of history. To be sure, no such pronouncement is offered by the book’s creative team head lined by writer Van Gordon Sauter, photographer Robert Landau and graphic designer Frans Evenhuis.

Their superlative collaboration is a loose chronology of people and places, including the more furtive later years, the scruffy counter culture, rambunctious musicians, and shifting sounds and life styles, to the present relatively tame, some would say tacky, commercialization.

Nevertheless, as “Tales” touts, developments are constantly being proposed with appropriate fanfare flogging the Strip. And almost daily it seems a new conspicuous billboard is being unveiled. Change has always been welcomed on the Strip, though not always for the better.

The memories persist, lending the Strip a certain appealing cachet and its purveyors cash. Though tarnished, the Strip, I feel, is still the gem in the tiara that is Sunset Boulevard, lending sparkle to a Hollywood of a certain age.

If tempted to cruise The Strip, I suggest going in a car with the roof open or down, careful not to be too distracted by the billboards, and for a closer look stop, and park. Perhaps go tomorrow, Saturday , where at 4 PM at Book Soup, at 8818 Sunset Blvd. the “Tales” creative trio will be, extolling and signing their book.

 

 

 

 

MALIBU CITY INACTION CREATES CHAOS ON PCH

Instead of my usual commentary “the city observed,” on public radio 99.1 KBU, and select web site., I’ve labeled this one,“the city suffered,” That is especially if you live on Pt.Dume, as I do, and the western reaches of Malibu, and if for whatever reason you occasionally use the PCH.

I had to early this week., for a can’t miss pre op doctor’s appointments, replete with he usual slew of tests, in Santa Monica. It had been delayed too often, and was a medical necessity, whatever my insurance provider might rule.

Alert to the unpredictability of the PCH, I listened to the welcomed up-to the minute traffic reports on 99.1 KBU, which repeated several times traffic was slow in the Lagoon vicinity,

I also checked the website the city has touted, though as usual it was dated and incomplete. The more reliable Google Maps that morning showed east bound traffic backed up beyond John Tyler. This prompted me to leave an hour earlier, giving me up to 2 hours to get to my appointment .

Good thing I did, for the stop and go traffic was slow, and frustrating, prompting some cars to dangerously jump the median and head toward Malibu Canyon Road and the 101.

There were some close accidents, and one wonders where were the Sheriff deputies. I would guess probably lurking in a speed trap somewhere else in Malibu in wait to ticket for a senior going a few miles over the limit in their dated Prius.

Finally, I got to what was causing the monumental backup: the merging of two lanes into one at the Malibu Beach Inn, to accommodate the installation of a traffic signals for a crosswalk. This incidentally would allow the Inn to park cars on the northside of PCH in the old Hertz lot, and make room for an outdoor pool for its pampered guests on the southside steps from their rooms.

Nice, the Inn’s team of lawyers had once again out maneuvered the somnolent city, for yet another profitable amenitiy. How private interests are forever prevailing in Malibu raises question that needs to be answered, hopefully soon.

For the moment, there was the traffic problem, which I feel based on my hands on planning experiences could have been easily addressed, and saved thousand of commuters, and myself, several anguished hours on the PCH.

Specifically, the parking at the south curb should have been just temporarily banned. This would have allowed the private contractor’s truck, and an occasional Cal Trans car to park at the curb,, and not double park as they were doing eliminating a second eastbound lane and inhibiting the flow of traffic.

The resulting mess was a sad illustration of the planning adage that a road is as wide as its narrowest part.

In addition, the construction could have been timed for the evening at a relatively minor charge to the Inn, instead of costing the public hours of lost time at no doubt substantial sums. Yes, I made my appointment, barely.

Unfortunately lacking in all the parties involved was some common sense and common courtesy. Just having someone from City Hall there to check the situation could have made a difference.

Thanks to a burst of outrage in the social media, the double parking at the Inn is now no longer, thank goodness..

But beware, for scheduled to begin this weekend and run through the summer is some major road construction in the Civic Center area that promises to create a traffic hell. The work, of course, is to accommodate the wave of new commercial development that past self-aggrandizing councils had questionably approved.

Of course,, City Hall tell us the PCH is the responsibility of Cal Trans and the Sheriff’s department, not the toothless, and I would add, clueless city.

However, as KBU’s Hans Laetz has noted, there is much our City Hall staff can do. Yes, and I would add if the staff headed by an anemic city manager only had the gumption, as well as the support of a savvy council.  For the present, it is sadly not happening.

Something to think about when next stuck in traffic on the PCH

 

 

PIGHEADED SCHOOL BOARD SEEKS BILLIONS IN RANSOM

This week on the city observed, on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, it is the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School Board observed, and what I see is ugly.

I see a board dominated by a duplicitous majority including a compromised member representing a sanctimonious city of Santa Monica treating Malibu like an enslaved colony.

Need we be reminded about the unprecedented distance and differences between the two cities, separated by a 20 mile stretch of a tortuous highway, one a rural seacoast village, the other a swelling suburban city, and that stated again and again is the democratic imperative and moral certitude of the separation.

It also has been repeatedly revealed that in the allocation of funds for instruction and facilities, Malibu schools have been flagrantly shortchanged; that for decades Malibu has been treated like an abused cash cow for a prospering Santa Monica hiding behind a veil of self aggrandizing liberalism.

The latest not unexpected abuse of good faith by the board’s bullies is at long last to approve separating Malibu’s pubic school from the Santa Monica dominated district, which would allow Malibu to create a stand alone school district.

Yes! But then the board tacked on to its approval an unreasonable list of conditions, topped by the utterly ridiculous demand for Malibu to pay alimony for 50 years to the amount that has been calculated to top 10 billion dollars.

That is not a mistake. That is a B, as in blasphemous, black hearted, and downright bad. School funding, property taxes, local government, indeed everything can change over the course of years, If anything, it is an example of the board’s pigheadedness.

And while the schools in Santa Monica and their self serving Santa Monica based bureaucracy continue to suck cash subsidies out of Malibu, the board wants to hold more talks to dot the “Is”s and cross the “Ts” of the divorce agreement.

The estimate is that the agreement just may take up to 7 years to resolve, and also require an act of the state legislature.

The school board also has added a condition demanding Malibu drop its appeal to the county to alternatively seek the divorce, contending that the protracted negotiations in effect have failed.

In my opinion, they most certainly have.

It is time for Malibu’s to stop trying to be reasonable, and say good bye and good luck to the recalcitrant board, and start lobbying the county to break the oppressive chains to Santa Monica. It already has filed papers. Let’s get that effort rolling.

As one of the richest cities in California, Santa Monica should work out its own school financing, without holding Malibu ransom and punishing its students.

This I feel has become not only an educational matter, but also a civil rights issue.

 

 

CITY OF VENTURA OBSERVED

This week on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, the city observed is Ventura, just to the north of my Malibu, an attractive, still affordable seacoast city, with an authentic straggling main street.

To my transient sensibilities, the city is worth a detour, as it was to me decades ago when commuting most weekends and holidays with the kids to our rustic cabin high in Ventura County, in the Los Padres National Forest, above Ojai, deep in mystic Matilija Canyon. We on occasion ate and shopped in Ventura.

The occasion now for the revisit is the publication of “Talk City,” subtitled “a Chronicle Of Political Life in an All-American Town,’ written by William Fulton, (Solimar), who for eight years served on the Ventura City Council, much of the time as deputy mayor, and mayor.

Of interest to me is that Bill , a friend, is a city planner who apparently brought some design and development sensibilities to the elected positions. He is also a writer of several well received planning texts, and the thoughtful editor and publisher of the informative California Planning & Development Report.This held the promise of something beyond the usual bureaucratic babble and derivative academic dissertations that serve little real planning purpose other to than to pad resumes and pay grade reviews, to collect dust on groaning institute shelves

And as Fulton wrote in a note to me, “bear in mind that some of it is old war stories from Ventura. But a lot of it is what it’s like to be a part-time, overstressed, underpaid elected official in California. That, I think, has some legs beyond Ventura.”

Yes, it does, and perhaps some lessons, too, in particular for my stumbling Malibu, though smaller and more affluent, with some erudite residents, just does not seem to have its governmental act together since becoming a city 26 years ago.To be literal, Fulton does not mention Malibu.

However, in discussing why many small cities in California stumble and stagger presumably including Malibu, he cites the presence of “individuals involved who have taken a high handed approach with taxpayer funds,” and the state’s Byzantine system of local government.

Fulton contends that the progressive strong manager and part time politician approach –originally promoted to thwart corruption – has not worked well. He states this is sadly true when both the managers and politicians are self serving, and when the system “provides the opportunity for public servants to shield their activities from public view. “ That includes their total compensation, trips and gifts.

He adds that the system “also discourages constituents from being watchdogs in that both the governmental and financial system is cumbersome and bafflingly complicated,” and the state’s open meeting law is not much help. So much for transparency.

Among Fulton’s many insights from his years of service is that democracy only works if people pay attention, and sadly oftentimes people aren’t paying attention.

Thank you for the advice Bill, and your service.

 

 

 

MALIBU’S DOG DILEMMA, CONTINUED

Yes, I know there is real news out there that deserves, indeed demands, my attention and commentary, but I’m also a dedicated dog person, and cat and reluctant parrot person, too, so allow me some latitude.

So this week for City Observed on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the serial drama of the fate of the Trancas Canyon Dog Park continues, as the Malibu burgeoning bureaucracy does what it does best: postpone any actual improvement as it moves the item slowly between the in and out baskets on their desks.

If you recall, in the last episode of the continuing drama, or is it a farce, of the Malibu City Hall foibles starring my willful Welsh speaking aging Corgi, Bobby the Bad, our canine hero was complaining about the raw surface conditions of the dog park.

They were abusing his paws, and those of dozens other dogs who visit the park, though not having the vocal chords of Bobby, they were not as shrill in their canine cursing of a recalcitrant City Hall that the pets and their owners remember had promised the resurfacing.

But the bids came in well above the $80,000 that had been budgeted, indeed from $132,000 to over $300,000, to replace the current decomposed granite (DG) surface.  The reason for the high bids was said to be the limited vehicle access to the park , one of a number of design flaws in the original design, along with using the cheapest DG.

Cited for this rejection also was that not enough people had complained about the condition, as if there is some magic number before the city acts, or do there have to be complaints when a condition is so evident.

It’s a problem when you have a neophyte city government that plays it cards close to its chest, and is quick to tell you why something can’t be done, rather than how it can.

So for the future there will be no resurfacing of the raw dog park surface, and the pets will just have to try to stoically ignore the pain as they do now while playfully romping.

However, to be sure the city did compose a cautious e mail in which it recognizes that there is a constituency that uses the park.

Perhaps if the city desk jockeys actually visited the parks to review the issue with real people and their pets, they would not have to create an annoying SurveyMonkey poll, as it is wont to do when postponing confrontation with actual taxpayers.

You know them, the minority of the modest 13,000 residents who actually live in Malibu, instead of just partying here on weekends, or rent their house out legally or not, as an air n b, hoping that it will keep appreciating as the smiling realtor promised it would.

Who worries about dog parks anyway, dogs don’t vote, nor do many of their owners show any inclination to get involved in civic matters.

Not that they don’t care, most who live here do, but many unfortunately have been turned off or turned away by a City Hall, with its long, sad history of imperious leadership.

Welcome to small town government in, I fear, a failing democracy, for people and dogs. .

 

 

 

MALIBU TRAFFIC; BAD TO WORSE

If there seems to have been more traffic delays in Malibu than usual, it is because there are. Of late there have been several bad accidents, on PCH and also on the two connecting routes over the hill, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

And now there is a rush of construction of the ill advised projects of past pro development roosting city councils ,whose bad eggs they laid are being hatched . This includes a traffic light to accommodate the Malibu Beach Inn, and a rash of road widenings in and around the civic center to serve the approved new shopping centers there.

So don’t expect traffic to get any better, despite the usual mouse squeaks of concern coming out of City Hall. To be sure, even with their doors closed, or away on another expense paid governmental boondoggle featuring free meals and advice, the city’s top staff couldn’t ignore the welling anger of the Malibu constituency, especially those who have to use the PCH daily.

So with only a few days notice the city has scheduled a so-called “informational workshop,” for next Wednesday, the 14th, to ostensibly discuss transportation improvement projects funded by the county Measure M.

But hopefully the audience will insist the entire transportation mess plaguing Malibu will be aired, and not let the city get off the hook by blaming it all on Cal Trans. Malibu could assert itself much more, if it only had the moxIe.

However, if these meetings follow past scripts, those attending should beware of protracted presentation by city and county representatives designed not necessarily to details a list of pending projects, but to take forestall public comment and questions. In short, to bury the audience in bureaucratic blather, and deflect the arrows aimed at those responsible.

I wonder how many past council members, and the present lame ducks will be present to explain why and how they turned our seacoast coast village into a suburban-scape.

Probably not present will be the gaggle of high priced traffic, planning and political consultants that have been feeding at the city’s trough, and supposedly addressing these issues. That is in addition to hosting our neophyte municipal leaders who seem to have outsourced every city hall issue except staff payrolls and pensions, and councilperson trips.

There are so many questions to be asked, and so few answers to be expected. It is I feel frankly the sad and sorry state of local government these days

This brings to mind the urban adage, “People get the city they deserve.” Perhaps it is time to take back some of those awards given out to select past council persons when they retired.

 

 

 

REMEMBERING LEE HARRIS POMEROY

 

“I’m missing Lee the architect already:

Certainly at the funeral HE would have in his understated way checked out Riverside Memorial Chapel to see if it had:

1) proper means of access and, especially egress, for a place of public assembly.

2) how the lobby could be improved to accommodate public congregating, especially mindful of seasons and weather, to check and retrieve outer garments.

3) seating made more comfortable, sight lines enhanced, lighting more flexible

4) audio reviewed, with special consideration for the hearing impaired.

5) any special amenities for the seated family, cushions, raised for viewing

6) stepping to the pulpit, speaking at pulpit. descending, back to seat.

7) ease exiting, accommodate pauses in aisles, lobby, and on sidewalk. And if the venue could be vacated in the 6 minutes, in accordance to the NYC Fire Department performance standards.

The check and punch lists would (should!) go on, and on, into eternity. Yes, eternity.

I taught senior thesis with him as a team as adjunct professors at City College for several years, in the early 70s, nearly 50 years ago but really only like yesterday. He enjoyed talking about those years whenever we met.

Lee was very much the professional architect, and when he taught was indeed the advocate for the architect. He viewed the student designs as an experienced, insightful architect while I acted as the advocate for the user.

I felt with Lee I wasn’t teaching the class, but rather learning with the class. In a way, we were all students of Lee.

And I must add it was Lee in his declarative mode who dominated the grading, I never liked giving out grades, thinking the students when graduated will be graded soon enough.  He felt grades were appropriate.

Yes, Lee was judgmental, albeit in a soft voice that was sugar to his sometimes sharp reviews. This no doubt influenced me when I went into the next life to be a critic.

I especially liked it when class reviews were held in his office atop of the Plaza Hotel, in the former maids quarters, where he roosted for awhile, having been the architect for the hotel’s rehabilitation.  (Yes, he had opinions about working for Donnie back then, which we shared since my Dad was the Trump interior decorator. But I have no more to say on that.  We have enough sadness at present dealing with Lee’s death.)

I will say the Plaza was more pleasant than the ex Chevy facility on 133rd and Broadway.

Even after moving to LA. I enjoyed, staying in the illegal office bedroom, which gave me another reason to stay in touch with Lee, and to dine out on occasion with the wives.

For the record, the bill always was scrupulously split, with Lee, of course, doing the math, which I never questioned. I doubt anybody ever did.

And when the office was downtown, I loved it being above the culinary institute. I know he certainly did. Having lunch there with Lee, at his table, is a fond memory, even after we both went on diets.

For a Brooklyn born, Brooklyn Tech grad, subway commuter, street savvy New Yorker, he was exceptionally soft spoken and kind, to students as well as waiters, and also tolerant to colleagues, even the nasty ones who envied his success.

He even had a kind word for the bureaucrats here, and especially in India, who held up the design process, and worse, payments.

And he cared, not just for the clients. In particular, I remember him struggling with me of how should the 10,000 feral waifs living in the tunnels of the Calcutta train station be accommodated during the station’s reconstruction the office was planning.

It is a problem we never solved, like others Lee struggled with, in a life too short.

And I thought he was going to be immortal, like me, until, of course, we are not.”